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India's yoga guru ends anti-graft fast

New Delhi, June 12, 2011

Popular yoga guru Swami Ramdev on Sunday called off his eight-day-old hunger strike to denounce corruption after a prominent spiritual figure persuaded him to end his action, local media said.

Ramdev had pressed on with the fast at his ashram, or spiritual centre, after police last week used batons and tear gas to disperse a hunger strike by him and his followers in New Delhi. The crackdown was condemned by opposition parties on the left and right.

Ramdev, who travels by private jet and boasts a daily television audience of 30 million, was admitted to hospital on Friday suffering from a low pulse rate and dehydration. His condition prompted concern from both his followers and government officials.

Swami Ramdev won backing from followers for his initiative to act against corruption, but criticism had grown over some of his recent statements in which he asked supporters to take up arms.

Ramdev's aide, Balakrishna, told local media the yoga guru had called off the fast but would carry on with his campaign.     

Media reports said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual guru with an even greater following than Ramdev, had persuaded the fasting guru to call off the protest on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, also quoted by media, denied the government had taken part in any behind-the-scenes talks with Ramdev. The ruling Congress party welcomed the decision to end the fast.

National anger over corruption has spiralled as the government has become embroiled in a series of scandals, including a telecom licensing kickback scam that may have cost the exchequer up to $39 billion.

Ramdev had called on the government to pursue billions of dollars in illegal funds abroad and introduce tough anti-corruption legislation.

The protest, and the government's handling of it, has distracted from authorities' efforts to proceed with reforms to modernise the economy, which analysts say is growing at around 8 percent. - Reuters




Tags: India | Corruption | yoga | graft | Ramdev |

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